The Slatest

I Just Died of Boredom Reading Democratic Leaders’ Responses to the Mueller Press Conference

Nadler speaks into a pack of microphones while standing in front of a blue backdrop.
House Judiciary Committee chairman and New York Rep. Jerry Nadler speaks at a Wednesday press conference in New York City.
Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

At a Wednesday morning press conference, Robert Mueller all but said outright that it is up to Congress to act on the substantial evidence that Donald Trump obstructed justice by formally accusing him of a crime. Like, as Rick Hasen noted in Slate, Mueller literally said the following three things:

• “The Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.”

• “As set forth in the report, after that investigation [into potential obstruction], if we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”

• “When a subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation or lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of their government’s effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable.”

The constitutional process for determining whether the president should be formally accused of a crime is impeachment. The House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee is responsible for initiating impeachment proceedings. Democrats control the House of Representatives. So let’s check in on how the relevant Democrats responded to Mueller’s remarks.

• “Congress will continue to investigate and legislate to protect our elections and secure our democracy,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. She did not mention impeachment.

• “House Democrats will continue to fulfill our constitutional obligation to hold the Administration accountable,” Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in a statement. He did not mention impeachment.

• “We are following through in our investigation,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said at a press conference. In response to a question about impeachment, he said only that the Judiciary Committee will “make decisions as they seem indicated.”

Got that? They’ll make decisions, as indicated, in order to fulfill and secure thezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz—oh, sorry, I just died of banality poisoning for a second there.

Now, you may note that the subject which the Democrats are claiming they need to investigate further before initiating impeachment—whether Trump committed obstruction of justice—is something that Mueller addressed via a two-year inquiry that culminated in a 448-page report. (The report’s volume on obstruction was largely unredacted.) One suspects, then, that the issue the party is really interested in is whether public hearings involving Mueller and various obstruction-adjacent ex-administration officials would affect the polls which say that most voters don’t support impeachment. Mueller said Wednesday that he does not want to testify, though, and one key witness—former White House counsel Don McGahn—has already defied a Judiciary subpoena ordering him to appear, a provocation to which Nadler has not yet formally responded. In other words, talking about accountability may be the order of the day, but actual accountability is not yet on the table.